I totally get Bruce Banner.
For those of you unfamiliar, Bruce Banner is the Incredible Hulk. I double-checked my geek-speak, so, nerds (I say this with reverence BTW), please don't attack. This came from the Marvel Universe Wiki:
Caught in the blast of gamma radiation, brilliant scientist Bruce Banner is cursed to transform in times of stress into the living engine of destruction known as THE INCREDIBLE HULK.
I, too, have a nasty, irrationally enraged creature in the depths of my black little soul. When I'm in my natural surroundings with my friends and chosen family (husband, cat, Friend I Found a Dead Body With), I think I would usually be described as "kind," if occasionally "grumpy," but also usually very "accepting."
Hell, I think if you get a couple drinks in me and a few tater tots, I could almost be described as "fun." Not so when I go back to my hometown.
"Bruce Banner is cursed to transform in times of stress into the living engine of destruction known as THE INCREDIBLE HULK."
When I go home for the holidays, I Hulk-out. I get stressed, and that fun, whiskey-and-tater-tot-swilling gal who will gladly rescue you from prison at 3am then happily buy you a Moons Over My Hammy takes a vacation and a decidedly more impatient persona takes hold. Has North Texas ever been exposed to high levels of gamma radiation?
I revert to the worst version of myself -- a sullen, moody, 90s teenager.
You know the drill: short answers often involving the words "whatever," "I don't care," "I don't know" or "doy." Skulking around, a lack of enthusiasm, taking offense and picking arguments over dumb stuff like, "Chicken is SO not part of a vegetarian diet. Whatever. Doy. I don't know."
Sometimes I just want to smack myself over the head. Really, I just want to say, "Come on, Hung! Snap out of it! You are a grownup woman with a credit score, a husband, a cat, and health insurance, just be nice."
Rationally, I just don't get it. My hometown family and friends are basically good people. My family has had their ups and downs -- money, marriage, tempers -- but we've come out relatively unscathed and reasonably sane. I can honestly say I look forward to going home most of the time.
Part of the problem is anxiety. I've battled a crippling anxiety disorder for the majority of my adult life, and returning back to my hometown is visiting the font of my anxiety and fears. I've managed to reinvent and restyle myself more times than a toddler in a tiara, but when I go home, I find myself getting stripped down to what I irrationally fear I am at my core -- a skinny, awkward, acne-riddled girl who on a daily basis attempts to straddle the line between living as a normal, sassy, rebellious American teenager and the obedient, overachieving first-generation child of immigrant parents.
Growing up, I was caught between who I was "supposed to be" and who I "wanted to be," and though I believe I've mostly found harmony between those two worlds, going back to Texas finds the tremors of my adolescence still ricocheting across and reaching into my adult life.
I'll fully admit I was a little shit.
Though I was only moderately rebellious -- my best friend and I only lit her parents' car on fire with a cigarette ONCE -- I had a mouth on me that should have been sewn shut with my own bleached out hair. Add to that my supreme terribleness at school, and I was an Asian-family nightmare.
I recognize now that, in my teenage years, my desperation to fit in and be accepted as a "normal" teenager -- whatever the hell that means -- made me into a nasty little turd.
I hate that brooding, angsty crap now, and when I see that in myself I feel like I'm watching someone else. It's like I'm flying up out of my body the way my freshman year acting teacher in college claimed she did when she was revisiting her ancestors in Atlantis. Except I am not the cultural liaison between the modern world and the City of Atlantis -- I'm being the Lou-Hulk, alienating and frustrating the people who have loved me and put up with me for the longest, smashing their good time.
As I've gotten older and mellower, I've learned to somewhat curb my disposition. I think I'm able to appear "spacey" as opposed to "mopey," and "quietly contemplative" as opposed to "an asshole." I want to make the people around me happy at home, so while I work hard at keeping up appearances, I know deep down there's a gloomy 16-year old rolling her eyes. And I hate it.
So, just cut it out, right? Stop it. I think the best I can offer is that I'm trying really hard.
I don't think I'm alone. In comparing notes with friends across the country, of various economic background and upbringing, there is something about going home that makes a lot of us Hulk-out. The unifying thread tends to be parents who held you too much or too little, and some version of mother-daughter criticism.
I would like to think that we are not horrible people. The fact that we recognize some missing chip in our grownup brains can't mean we're incapable of being consistently kind, generous, non-obsessive people. We acknowledge the gamma rays and the green guy lurking beneath the surface.
I don't think Bruce Banner ever got de-Hulked. I'm not up to date on my Hulk lore, but my comic book geek friend says that he got cured then uncured and it doesn't seem like Bruce Banner will have a happy ending. In that way Bruce, the Hulk and I diverge. I think I can get over this. Maybe by next Christmas. Maybe by the time I'm 40.
Until then, I'm going to spend the year not wearing all black, getting over myself for crap's sake, and staying away from nuclear power plants.